Rowlands Pharmacy has announced plans to sell 70 of its pharmacies — 69 in England and one in Wales — to focus its investment on automation.
In a statement issued on 21 February 2019, the pharmacy chain said that with the healthcare sector in the UK “evolving at pace”, there was a growing focus on locally-based preventative care — a core strength of community pharmacy.
As a result, Rowlands said it was “investing significantly” in automation through new central dispensing models to enable it to continue to provide high levels of service to patients in a more efficient way.
“We are committed to investing in the future and changing our dispensing processes in order to deliver sustainable, profitable growth for the business, enable colleagues to spend more time with patients and reinforce the role of Rowlands pharmacies as local healthcare hubs,” said Kenny Black, managing director of Rowlands Pharmacy.
“As a result, we need to focus our investment on a slightly smaller Rowlands pharmacy network than we have today.”
Black added that branch staff would be fully informed and supported throughout the process.
As of January 2019, Rowlands had 516 pharmacies registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council, making it the fourth largest pharmacy chain in the UK.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said it came as “no surprise” that some of the larger pharmacy businesses were reviewing their networks and that the decision by Rowlands Pharmacy may be a symptom of the “very difficult” financial situation that many community pharmacies currently find themselves in.
“We know that the NHS and [the government] are looking to community pharmacies to offer more patient-focused services to support the delivery of their recently published vision for the delivery of primary healthcare,” he said.
“This will require transformative changes for the sector, including a shift away from the current focus on dispensing volumes; changes to working practices; and an increased focus on efficiencies, automation and technology to free up community pharmacists’ time to offer more clinical services.
Dukes also offered advice to individuals considering purchasing a new pharmacy and recommended that they seek specialist professional financial advice first.
“Like all pharmacy businesses, potential buyers should be thinking carefully about what changes their pharmacies are likely to need to make to fit into and remain profitable in the future models for the sector,” he said.